Pastor Andy Stanley, founder of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, believes his fellow pastors need to stop uttering "the Bible says" when addressing congregations.
Pastor Andy Stanley argues that pastors should avoid "the Bible says" (AndyStanley.com)
Stanley, who detailed his views on the matter in an interview with Christianity Today, said that it's more effective for faith leaders to use phrases like "Paul says" or "Jesus says" when speaking about the Bible — and that avoiding "the Bible says" can help keep skeptics engaged in sermons.
"The goal is to lead [people] to the place where they acknowledge Jesus to be who he claimed to be. They don't have to believe Noah built an ark and put animals on it to get there," Stanley said. "To get a person to the point where they believe the Bible is authoritative, they first have to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The reason Christians take the Old Testament seriously is because Jesus did."
"It has nothing to do with my view of Scripture but is an attempt to keep people who are skeptical of the Bible's authority engaged in the sermon," he added.
Stanley said that using the phrase sometimes leads pastors to miss opportunities and that relying Bible characters' quotes can help certain themes more deeply resonate.
Church planter Darryl Dash recently summarized this argument in a blog post, noting that Stanley's wording would include examples like "James, the brother of Jesus, writes…" and "Paul, who hated Christians and yet became one, writes…" instead of simply saying "the Bible says."
When assessing how effective this change in wording might be, consider society's changing views on the Bible. While many people believe that the holy book contains everything a person needs to know to lead a good and meaningful life, not everyone would agree.
TheBlaze's recent coverage of a Barna Group study highlighted that the proportion of those skeptical or antagonistic toward the Bible is now the same as the proportion of those who are engaged with it.
The percentage of who are skeptical increased from 10 percent to 19 percent over the past three years and is now on par with the percentage of those engaged with the Bible — people who read it at least four times each week and who believe it is inspired by or contains the actual words of God.
Skeptics are more likely to be younger (two-thirds are age 48 or younger) and to be male (68 percent). So relating to younger people with the phrase "the Bible says" could be a turnoff to those who dismiss the book's authority — or so some would posit.
Christianity Today spoke with experts who both agreed and disagreed with Stanley on the matter. Krish Kandiah of the Evangelical Alliance U.K. said that pastors should help parishioners understand the Bible's content by being more specific.
"Many preachers use 'the Bible says' too glibly, using proof texts out of context or as shorthand for 'trust me on the point I'm making,'" he said. "Rather than tell people what the Bible says, preachers should show people what it says. A math teacher doesn't help her students if she simply gives them the answers. Instead, she shows them how to solve the problems themselves."
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Dash, though, said that he saw both strengths and weaknesses in Stanley's ideas on the matter.
"I could be wrong, but I’m not sure Stanley’s proposal gives enough credit to the audience. We may say we are simply quoting Paul or James, but our listeners will still realize we are quoting from the Bible, and they will still bring their questions about some of the more difficult passages of Scripture," he wrote. "I have no problem with quoting authors; I’m just not sure that people will think I’m not quoting the Bible. In fact, I want them to think I’m quoting the Bible."
Dash continued: "My assumption is that we can preach in a way that doesn’t sidestep that we are quoting Scripture, even as we build the case for why we need to recognize its authority."
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(H/T: Christianity Today)
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